It has been just over one year since the NHL’s most transcending mascot burst into the hockey world. Gritty, introduced by the Philadelphia Flyers as their mascot last September, has become a star of sorts in a competitive American sports media landscape.
I wrote about Gritty when he was born last year, and said that while his instant fame was remarkable, his popularity would not last. Reactions to the Gritty reveal were full of confusion, as the mascot was the center of jokes and insults across the media. The orange creature was an abomination, and people could not stop talking about it.
Gritty was met with a mix of boos and cheers in his first few preseason games, and even embarrassed himself by taking a tumble on the ice during a performance. Hockey fans did not know what to make of him. But regardless of people’s opinions on the new mascot, Gritty was getting exposure never seen before by any mascot across sports. Within just a few days, Gritty had more followers on Twitter than any other mascot in the league.
The messy orange hair, round build, small helmet and googly eyes made Gritty a perfectly silly looking guy that people could not turn away from. While the name Gritty seemed unappealing on the surface, it turned out to be fitting to the Flyer name. The y-sound at the end gives the name a friendly, easy-going ring to it necessary for any mascot. The recipe was an amazing mix of humor, uniqueness and even controversy as Gritty became an instant success.
While mascots are always familiar to their team’s fans, Gritty became recognizable to all fans throughout the NHL. The concept and plan for the mascot was brilliant work from the Flyers’ marketing team. They took a risk, and it paid off more than anyone could have ever anticipated.
Now that Gritty has sustained relevance for over a year, it is clear he will not die out as a measly gimmick, but will continue to establish himself as one of the prime sources of entertainment for the Flyers and NHL. In a recent poll, players were asked if they had grown tired of Gritty by this point, and most answered that they still enjoy the fun he brings.
While it could have been reasonable for the mascot to die off like some internet fad, Gritty and his team’s ability to innovate has made him destined for everlasting fame. Every other day, you can find Gritty doing something new or finding tricks to entertain fans and hold the spotlight.
For instance, during the pregame warmup of the Flyers’ home opener against the New Jersey Devils, Gritty poked some fun at P.K. Subban. He held up a sign next to Subban reading “Lindsey could do better,” with arrows pointing towards himself. He was referring to Subban’s fiance, Lindsey Vonn. This caused Subban to respond with a joke of his own on Halloween. At the Devils’ team party, Subban dressed up as the Devils’ mascot with Lindsey holding up a sign saying “Gritty you’re right, I can do better.”
This is just one example of how Gritty is able to stay connected with fans and remain relevant to all fanbases amidst an age of social media. Gritty has jolted straight up the ranks for mascots to be in the same stratosphere as fellow Philadelphia mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. This is phenomenal company considering that the Phanatic may be the most revered sports mascot of all time.
Gritty’s popularity has only grown since he emerged out of nowhere in 2018, as he became an instant hockey icon. Teamed up with the Phillie Phanatic, the city of Philadelphia is suddenly a hub for the best mascots in the world.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Gritty’s instagram @grittynhl.